By J. Coyden Palmer, Chicago Crusader
Add another $9 million to the Chicago tax-paying public, thanks to former Chicago Police Lieutenant Jon Burge, this after a proposed settlement this week to James Kluppelberg, who claimed Burge’s crew beat him into confessing he set a fire that killed six people in 1984.
Kluppelberg was released from prison in 2012 after nearly a quarter of a century behind bars. Cook County prosecutorss dropped the charges against him and a year later he received a certificate of innocence. The city’s finance committee will vote on the settlement this Friday.
Kluppelberg is a rarity among Burge victims, in that he is a white male. Most of the disgraced cop’s victims were African American men. Kluppelberg was released after a man told police another man had set the blaze, which killed a woman and five children in the 4400 block of South Hermitage in the Back of the Yards neighborhood.
The man whose confession freed Kluppelberg later recanted and said he told police the story to try to get his charges reduced. But by then there was enough doubt for Kluppelberg to be released and his attorneys accused prosecutors of misconduct and not investigating a woman who had set a fire a block away on the same night, furthering suspicion of the case.
Thus far Chicago taxpayers have paid out over $110 million in settlements and court ordered judgments to victims of Burge, and more could be coming.
Tony Anderson’s is one such case. Anderson has spent over 25 years in prison after being convicted of attempted murder and a string of armed robberies. Anderson claims he is innocent and was a torture victim of Burge. His case is being reviewed by the University of Chicago Exoneration Project, a pro bono legal clinic that investigates and petitions courts to reverse wrongful convictions. Anderson is currently being held downstate at the Pinckneyville Correctional Center and is not scheduled for parole until 2040.
Most of those exonerated of alleged crimes or who have had their convictions overturned due to misconduct by Burge and his associates, have been people charged with murder. But many believe there are people still in prison for crimes less than murder, who are not having their cases reviewed. It is believed by many in the legal community that many of those victims, had shorter sentences and were released before the public learned of the Burge cases, which started to become public nearly 20 years ago.
Burge served with the Chicago police department from 1972 until 1993, when he was fired for torturing suspects following an internal review by CPD. In 2002 a special prosecutor was assigned to begin investigating the torture claims. After four years and $17 million, special prosecutor Edward Egan found there to be credible evidence of torture, but concluded the statute of limitations had expired on the claims so Burge was never tried.
In 2008 he was charged by U.S. Attorney Pat Fitzgerald with perjury and obstruction of justice. He was convicted in June of 2010 and sentenced to four and half years in prison. Burge was released early for good behavior and is now living in Florida while receiving his police pension. Burge once owned a 40-foot boat named “The Vigilante.”